By Wr. Dismas Okombo
“When will I know I am ready?”
“You won’t. It is a leap of faith. That’s all it is; a leap of faith.”
~From the Movie, Spiderman; Into the Spiderverse.
Throughout the night I prepared myself to face one major discomfort in the morning. Itchy scalp. Often, such is my reward whenever I miss bath for even a day. At dawn, sweat pricked my armpits and after tossing several times, I jumped out of bed. Cursing my yester-self for taking the easy way out in the cold-water predicament, I switched on the light. Of all the residents’ rooms, only mine doesn’t contain a washroom. On the left wall from the door, is a white crib; snugly prepared as if in anticipation of a baby. And, almost in the middle of the room is my bed; with heavily warm duvet and two pillows. On the two outer walls are huge windows; white linens and constantly drawn back green curtains.
I contemplated doing pushups but, the minute the thought entered my mind, uneasiness instantly bolted it out. Instead, I picked my towel, threw it around my shoulders and headed to Hassan’s room for a shower. At the corridor, I switched the heater on before knocking on his door. I had barely stepped into the room when he, desperation heavy in his Swahili accent, said: “Dismas, siku saba sasa na sijaandika ata neno! [Seven days and I have not written anything!]” The pressing concerns in my mind; a dump to make, a shower to attend and teeth to brush, didn’t permit me to empathize. I ignored him like I do my own shadow and entered the washroom.
Relaxed on the toilet seat after easing out the first urgent dump, and while waiting for the second teasing one, spontaneously I reflected on how infuriating not being able to write for quite a while is. The listless feeling grips your heart. The doubts and convictions of your own worthlessness torment your mind. ‘It is all vain; to call myself I writer and yet I can’t write anything!’ In similar, and sometimes even harsher words, you mock yourself. You are stuck between the rosy fantasy of writing and the taunting, daunting reality of doing the actual writing. Often, talking about these doubts with someone who understands the lonesome journey helps to elevate the feeling of being ‘stuck.’ And so, finalizing my business, I promised to make time with him later in the day.
After removing my shorts, I stepped into the shower; a glass cage similar to those bulletproof ones mounted on the presidential convoys. On the wall, two knobs; in between, a handle. Up above, shower head. Without the slightest consideration on the purpose of the knobs or the handle, I turned on the right knob. A gush of cold water hit my chest and I let out an indignant howl. Muffled laughs reached me from the other room. I turned off the right knob, bent forward, and on realizing that it has green color on it, while the left knob has red color, I hastily turned on the left knob. Burning hot water poured on my back. Damn it! Damn it! There aren’t straightforward showers anymore? “Balance the hot and the cold knobs. And whatever you do, don’t touch the handle.” Hassan shouted.
Today’s class was a continuation on discussions on Afrikan culture. We paired up and discussed each other’s cultural practices; noting the similarities and the differences. Fiske, a Tumbuka from Eastern Zambia, picked to discuss my culture, Luo. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by Twinomugisha’s culture, the Banyankole of Uganda. After the class, meat stew and fried rice proved a tasty meal for lunch. In the evening I had an opportunity to assist our talented photographer, Gathuru wa Kamau, in setting up for a video interview. For the first time, despite the irrational displeasure at listening to my recorded voice, I took a leap of faith and joined the interviewees. Later, before supper, Kamau showed me how to take a photo. And once again, for the first time, I held a professional camera and took my first professional photo.
I was in comfortable elements when I walked into Hassan’s room. He was hunched over his laptop, his heads in his hands. When I neared him, he said: “Words are still playing hid and seek with me.”
In gentle, kind understanding I replied: “Just take a leap of faith, everything else will fall in place. And remember, you don’t have to get it right.”
Dismas is an Incubate writer of Writers Guild Kenya. He is currently taking part in PenPen Writers Residency.